Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Living In DC: A Customer Service Spectrum
There's a perfectly-situated mom&pop non-chain no-place-better-to-sit-in-the-city establishment on my block called Java House. I use it as my office daily from 2-5pm and sometimes later. The food's marvelous. Usually all you have to do is take a seat in the patio and one of the employees will take your order. Sooner or later.

There's enormous variation in the customer service I experience here, though. I'm talking light-years of difference. It all depends on who's working.

The weekend daily guy is absolutely awesome. After inquiring how your are (with genuine interest), he asks what kind of sugar you want with your ice tea (sweet-n-low, splenda, equal, sugar in the raw, or just plain old white), and wants to know many packets. Which he then he immediately delivers.

The weekday woman
is middle-aged and has been here for awhile. She's attentive and efficient, wastes no words, and appears often on the patio, so you're assured you won't have to wait. I've become such a regular that she'll just bring me my ice tea less than five minutes after I've sat down.

The weekday afternoon guy
is quiet but professional. He doesn't work every day, so you're not sure when you'll see him. More of an assistant manager, which means if he's the only one on, it may be a few minutes before you see him outside. In these cases, you can see him working inside, often tending to the big coffee bean roaster. He'll also bring me my drink before I order it.

The weekday afternoon young lady will often make you wait. She's always smiling, but sometimes you won't see that smile for 20 minutes. Sometimes it looks as if she's ignoring customers when she passes among the patio tables. While I wrote this post, I had to go inside to order.

Quirky, yes. Maddeningly annoying? Not really. No one who works here makes all that much money. But with the infestation of all those chain shops (Dupont Circle has three Starbucks - and you can see all three at once!) it makes me wonder if sometimes, the mom and pops count on quirky to save the day.


The accompanying picture to this post is from a Washington Post article on this very cafe. The author gets the atmosphere right, and I can see some of the patrons she describes. But there has been a huge increase in laptop use, which includes me!

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